European Union returns to the teat, threatens to fine Microsoft $7.4 billion


The year long lack of a browser ballot screen did nothing to stem market share loss by Internet Explorer in Europe

A technical oversight by Microsoft may hit the company with a $7billion+ fine leveed by the EU.  Europe’s antitrust chief announced Microsoft may face a fine of up to 10% of Microsoft’s global annual turnover -which is up to $7.37 billion (based on figures from 2012)- because Microsoft failed to include a ‘browser choice’ screen for European users in the latest version of Windows 7 in the Service Pack 1 update in February 2011, ‘”The fault is there, it has been there for more than a year and it is clear that we need to react,” said European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, adding: “It is not only the distortion of competition during this period which concerns us; it is very serious, from my point of view, that the remedies imposed on Microsoft have not been applied.”

The European Commission said an antitrust investigation into Microsoft would be performed after complains about Microsoft were received by the executive body, claiming Microsoft were not providing users with a choice of browser; which was obligatory.  The measure was however beaurocratic and uninformed in the first place as clearly the absence of the screen did not result in any reduction in the market share lost by internet explorer over the last year, with the browser down from 35 to 27% over the last year, showing the remedy was clearly not needed.

In 2008, Microsoft received a fine for $1.2 billion after the EU claimed Microsoft refused to provide essential compatibility information to rival developers, which was crucial to make applications work with the operating system, “While we believed when we filed our most recent compliance report in December 2011 that we were distributing the [browser ballot] software to all relevant PCs as required, we learned recently that we’ve missed serving the [browser ballot] software to the roughly 28 million PCs running Windows 7 SP1,” said the software giant.  Following on from this, with intentions to please the European authorities, Microsoft included the browser choice update in Windows 8 –which is going to be released in less than 5 weeks on October 25th.

While we are sure $7 billion will make a small dent in Europe’s ocean of debt we suggest the commission look at the world’s richest company who seems to be doing a much better job at limiting choice than Microsoft ever was!